As many have discovered during this pandemic, adopting or fostering a dog (or cat) is a lovely way to have a furry, loving companion who gives nothing but love (and fur). There’s nothing quite like an animal’s unconditional love. Here are some reading choices that will share some training tips you may (or may not) want to take note of, as well as some doggy quirks (like digging in dirt), and two picture books about dogs and reading.
In “How I Trained My Dog in 10 Days,” author Norma Lewis and illustrator Tom Tinn-Disbury share the clever story of an intrepid young boy with a new dog and how he teaches his dog the rules. The boy starts out strong and says that training a dog is easy, but you have to be firm. You can’t let the dogs take over. “I don’t want to brag, but it only took me ten days to train my dog Scamp.” And then he shares his “training” techniques. Kids LOVE this book because after the first few days, they can guess what they are going to see on the next page. Suffice to say that by the last page, the illustration is of the dog writing, “How I trained my boy in 10 days.” It’s a good question for the kids: Just who is training whom? You’ll be reading this picture book over and over again. The illustrations — many with no text (none needed) are priceless. (Peter Pauper Press)
“Madeline Finn and the Library Dog” by Lisa Papp is an award-winning picture book that’s an ode to reading and therapy dogs everywhere. I personally brought a therapy dog, Bentley, and a facility dog, Peanut, to school with me for years. In fact, the first therapy dog I had who came to school was Sadie, who, like the reading dog Bonnie in the story, was a Great Pyrenees. As Papp says in the story, she was like a huge, cuddly polar bear. This book, through touching text and illustrations, shows just why reading dogs and therapy dogs are so important in our schools and libraries. Dogs, with their unconditional love, help children feel safe while trying tasks that might be very difficult for them – like reading. These dogs, and their volunteers, are quiet heroes (unless the dog barks!). After reading to Bonnie and Mrs. Dimple, Madeline feels more confident as a reader. Bonnie’s unthreatening demeanor and calm presence make Madeline calmer and more able to persevere. (Peachtree Press)
In the very touching “Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog,” Lisa Papp makes up for a minor issue I had with the first book in the series. In the first book, Madeline finds out at the end that Bonnie had puppies. One might assume they are purebred puppies that Mrs. Dimple is selling. That misconception is cleared up in this story. As Papp points out in on this book jacket, many therapy dogs were former shelter dogs. This book is an absolutely beautiful reminder that not only do shelter dogs make great reading dogs, they also love to be read to. Through the illustrations we learn that Bonnie was a shelter dog who was adopted at the age of four by Mrs. Dimple. Unstated is that she must have been pregnant at the time of adoption because rescues and shelters require dogs be neutered or spayed before adoption. When Madeline and her mother visit Bonnie and Mrs. Dimple at the shelter, Madeline realizes that her newfound reading ability just might help some shelter animals. And when she organizes a read-to-shelter-animals event, it’s more successful than she had ever anticipated! A beautiful tale of finding homes for homeless dogs and performing acts of kindness. (Peachtree Press)
But as dog lovers know, having a dog isn’t all sweetness and cuddling. There are rainy days and muddy backyards, and some dogs like dirt. In “Roy Digs Dirt,” David Shannon plays with the word “digs” as it means that Roy loves digging in the dirt, a trait which is clear because he is always digging in the dirt. Roy digs dirt. All the time. You can almost feel the dirt and mud oozing across the pages with the muddy paw prints everywhere, including on the title page. Two things that Roy does not dig are ants and baths. Kids will love the illustrations with Roy and his totally slobbery tongue and non-threatening flat teeth. The text is simple, and Roy is a delight to read about. Just not a delight to live with. Maybe combine this treasure with “How to Train Your Dog in 10 Days” and ask kids if they think the training would work with Roy? (Scholastic Books)
Also see “Pandemic-perfect picture books Part One: Books to make you laugh,” “Pandemic-perfect picture books Part Three: Four “beary” adorable books,” “Pandemic-perfect picture books Part Four: Books about feelings and self-care,” and “Pandemic-perfect picture books Part Five: Nonfiction picture books.”
Please note: This review is based on final and advance copies of the books provided by the publishers for review purposes.